When you are recruiting a top performer to your organization, there is one big question that you must answer above all others.  Some think it’s pay, or reporting structure, or title.  Yes, those things matter, but they are not the big question.  Whoever you have posting your job ads seems to think that top performers are eager to read the dull list of job responsibilities found in your job descriptions … ummm, no – that is most definitely not the big question you need to answer.

So what do do top performers need to know right up front?  What question must you answer for them before you can even begin the recruiting process?

You must explain why this open job is important to you.  You need to demonstrate why it is so important to the future of the organization.   To answer those questions you must outline what would happen if this job were done really well.  You need to share your success criteria – showing concretely how performance will be measured.  You have to get beyond the theoretical and into the tangible reality of the job.   That proves to the job seeker that you have thought deeply about the job, about what you need, and about who would be successful.

Whether you call them self-starters, high-achievers, or “A” players, top performers are drawn to big, important, high-stakes jobs.  They want jobs where achievement matters, where their skills are put to the test.  And if the job is not important to you, you can be sure it will not be interesting to them.

Ultimately, very little of what is written in either the job description or the resume helps either party understand each other, or helps to predict who will be successful on the job. In this very first step of the hiring process — posting a job ad and reviewing resumes — there is already a frustrating breakdown in communication.

To learn how to write more effective job postings, read How to Write Job Descriptions that Attract Top Performers. Or, if you prefer your research and information to be more attractively formatted, just download the document below.

Disclaimer: This advice is primarily for professional hiring in a large metropolitan area. Our perspective is shaped by our work in a retained executive search firm, conducting searches for CEO and senior staff positions. We’ve completed over 600 searches for associations and other nonprofits in major metropolitan areas like Washington DC, New York, and Chicago, but not all of our advice will be relevant if you are interviewing for other types of positions in other job markets.